Tenants in a row of shops on Ramsgate High Street are facing an uncertain future due to a landlord application to demolish the whole block and rebuild it as 5 smaller shops and 40 flats.
The application submitted by JDP (Ramsgate) Limited is to demolish 60-68 High Street and 1 to 11 George Street which comprises the Pilgrims Hospice shop, Sugar Rush, Cats in Crisis and Simply Danish furniture shop.
The proposal is for shops at ground level and 34 one-bed , 4 two-bed and 2 three-bed flats with refuse and cycle stores and external play space. Car parking provision is not included in the application.
One business tenant says the first they heard of the plans was when they were alerted to a public notice for the application.
The application documents state that the applicant is “fully committed to retaining their existing tenants” and is negotiating the purchase of a larger unit for one tenant and will offer “new units or an offsite alternative” to remaining tenants.
But Cats in Crisis director Mary Knott says the charity has to move out as the new landlord is not renewing their lease.
She said: “The landlord won’t renew our lease which has now come to an end but we are on a couple of months reprieve. In the meantime, we are frantically looking for somewhere else in Ramsgate. There is one possibility, but it is much smaller so at the moment we are busy moving our excess goods, which are normally stored above the shop, into storage units.
“I feel very sad for the remaining shops, which have spent a lot of money doing their places up. Not like us – we do everything on a shoestring because we need the money for the cats.
“It is proving very stressful and time-consuming at a time when our rescue work is struggling with all the abandoned and unwanted cats that need to come in. Very few new homes are on offer as people are reluctant to take on new financial commitments but the number of animals needing to come in due to evictions is heartbreakingly high and we feel so guilty that we are having to refuse. I know it’s not just us and rescues everywhere are having the same problems.”
Another of the businesses affected is Sugar Rush which moved into the venue in 2020 and completely renovated what had been an empty unit for a number of years into a performing arts and community space and shop.
Business owner Heidi Moran is appealing for people to object to the plans.
She said: “The top of the High Street is just starting to thrive with galleries, shops, cafes and more.
“The disruption would be immense to surrounding businesses- road closures, noise, no access to the public car park behind and dust for months.
“Where are the facilities to support this many new “luxury flats?” Doctors, dentists, hospitals are already full or stretched. Schools already don’t have enough places for current local children. Most flats will have 1-2 cars, where will these cars park?
“Our building is a real community hub- We support youth services with a performing arts school for 250 children from walking to 18 years, we have an LGBTQ2+ space with coffee shop, our boutique houses many local creators and makers, we host Art Marts events for local artists, inclusive poetry nights, sober socials, vintage markets, parent and toddler facilities, adult creative and movement classes and are a safe space for local people.
“We were one of the venues for Ramsgate Festival of Film and TV and will also host Ramsgate Festival of Sound. We are home to Thanet Vocal Collective Social Singing Group and lots of other local groups. We have raised funds to get what was an empty building for 15 years, to the fantastic building we now have.
“Please help us to save these buildings and stop this disruption in the area.”
Planning documents for the proposal state: “The new commercial space will be divided into smaller commercial units. The residential aspect of this proposal will be generally accommodated upon the upper floor levels; however part of the George Street commercial accommodation will be residential use.
“It is envisaged the building will be demolished to ground level. However, the footprint of the building will be constructed over the footprint of the existing foundations.
“The development will provide for 5 new commercial units all with their own bin storage areas. All will be provided with their own entrance and secondary exit. The dedicated residential entrance located upon George Street and Meeting Street.
“All existing commercial tenants will be offered alternative accommodation that is available from the JP Group portfolio. Pilgrims Hospice occupy by far the largest tenancy and have indicated that their business would benefit from larger premises. JP (Ramsgate) is currently negotiating the purchase of a large commercial building adjacent to the site which will provide the charity with sufficient space. Once converted the ground floor units will be offered to tenants on a commercial tenancy.”
‘Diversify to survive’
JDP (Ramsgate) Limited says the flats will be energy efficient and built to ‘lifetime homes’ standard. They say town centre properties need to ‘diversify’ to survive. The application includes a mapping of vacant marketed retail space in the town (above).
The planning document says: “The character of Ramsgate Town Centre like other high streets is currently subject to significant substantial change. We must recognise that large town centre shops are on the decline and in order to survive as a commercial shopping centre these large buildings must diversify and seek alternative sustainable uses in order to survive.
“It is therefore necessary for the retail aspect to reduce in size and find more sustainable uses that will help them to become more flexible in these challenging times. The proposal has undergone a comprehensive design and assessment to establish both the design principles for the site, and to ensure minimal impact to the amenity of the area.
“The applicant is fully committed to retaining their existing tenants. The applicant is currently negotiating the purchase of a larger unit which has been requested by one of the tenants and would offer a more suitable location. The remaining tenants will be offered the new units or an offsite alternative.”
A decision on the application is yet to be made.
Find the application at https://planning.Thanet.gov.uk/online-applications/ and search reference F/TH/22/0979